A new study of the DNA one of Australia's most popular dog breeds has revealed a surprising truth: labradoodles, with their soft, curly coats, are more poodle than labrador.

A study from the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US, published in the Plos Geneticsjournal, made the discovery, with co-author Dr Elaine Ostrander telling The Guardian that researchers "were surprised to see that it was really quite dramatic".

The dogs were first bred in 1989 by Australian man Wally Conran, who crossed the two breeds in order to create a guide dog suitable for people with allergies or asthma.

Dr Ostrander's team compared the DNA sequence at more than 150,000 random positions in the genomes of Australian labradoodles, with the same positions in the genomes of labradors and standard, toy and miniature poodles.


The results revealed that, while the offspring of labradors and standard poodles were a 50:50 genetic mix of their parent breeds, a different picture emerged when the breeds were mixed.

"The thing that we didn't expect to such a degree was that the Australian labradoodle retains a huge amount of poodle genome and doesn't retain a lot of the Labrador retriever genome," Dr Ostrander said.

The team's results could be explained by understanding the development of the breed, Dr Ostrander said, with new pure breeds added into the mix over the generations to keep dogs health and ensure they develop consistent traits, rather than just breeding a labrador and poodle together.

"People have been doing planned and deliberate crosses with the idea of having it eventually recognised on a registry as an established breed," she said, adding that the labradoodles included in the study were at least four generations away from Conran's original cross.

A desire for the poodle's coat – which is less likely to cause an allergic reaction – is likely why the dogs have become more poodle, less labrador over the years, the research suggests.

The research might cause labradoodle owners to question whether they should've simply bought a poodle, but Dr Ostrander said the combination of the poodle's physical features and the labrador's temperament was why the cross breeds make such a "great family dog".

"Labrador retrievers are a great family dog, they are a terrific dog to have around kids," she said.

"Poodles have a reputation for being a little bit stand-offish and being aloof but they are very smart dogs. That combination is really good."